Client: Foodstuffs North Region: APAC Industry: RETAIL

Foodstuffs: RPA Gave Employees Their Lives Back – No Working Weekends Or Unreasonable Hours

New Zealand-based Fast Moving Consumer Goods (FMCG)co-operative, Foodstuffs, used UiPath to automate a few simple processes but by scaling automation the company saw large benefits for employees.

To continue to provide high-quality service and value to its customers, Foodstuffs selected UiPath as its robotic process automation (RPA) partner. The benefits included streamlining processes, saving time, and ultimately bettering the lives of its employees through reliable, efficient, and supportable automation technology.

Tim Paton, Finance Automation Lead at Foodstuffs North Island Limited, provided more insight into the company’s decision to begin their RPA journey:

We researched Gartner’s Robotic Process Automation reports and became pretty familiar with what the key drivers for automation would be and what governance and structure we’d need to put around it. That’s when we recognized an opportunity to do something simple – but would help us out a lot. With over 200 of their stores involved – there’s a huge volume of activities taking place, all running on our SAP® platform. If we can find something that saves just three minutes of time per store and scale it across the business – we can see some major benefits. We knew that this technology had the potential to change the way our staff worked. However, we were surprised by the impact that it had on their everyday lives outside of work.

Tim PatonFinance Automation Lead at Foodstuffs North Island Limited

Finding an opportunity for RPA

Foodstuffs started thinking about automation when it did some analysis to see the regularity of bank statements being loaded on its SAP system. The team found out that if a statement wasn’t uploaded, downstream activity (for example office admin tasks like applying payments to customer accounts) couldn’t be done. “For the smaller stores, we have in the family, remembering to upload a bank statement every single day just became a bit of a hassle. Not every store would do it daily but instead do it once a week or once a fortnight,” Paton commented.

Previously, loading the bank statements to SAP was done by up to 200 people that took about three minutes per statement to load. Once Foodstuffs automated the process via UiPath robots, the automated process was done daily and scaled across 200 stores – this saw a significant impact. Between April 1, 2019 and March 31, 2020, around 9,000 hours were given back to the business to be used for other tasks. The tool also runs consistently whether someone is on leave or away from work – the bank statements still get uploaded.

When we put the bank statement automation process live, I was hearing things like ‘this is so good Tim, I don’t have to think about it anymore, it’s just great.’ Its taken away the mundane tasks that people don't enjoy doing, and enabled those activities to happen regardless of whether the person has remembered to do it for the day. This gives them more free time to focus on cognitive tasks.

Tim PatonFinance Automation Lead at Foodstuffs North Island Limited

Overcoming the challenges of new technology

One of the biggest obstacles Foodstuffs faced was around implementing another technology platform into its already complex technology stack. Once the company started seeing small wins using automation for centralizing the bank statement loading process for stores, invoice conversations, and producing reports – it moved to UiPath Orchestrator to deploy, secure, and manage its UiPath robots at scale through a centralized robot management dashboard.

We had conversations with our technical design authority reviewing operational readiness, as well as discussing pricing and whether we need virtual or physical servers. While it was easy to get a proof of concept, set it up quickly with a laptop, and see some quick wins, moving from concept into full production took some time and we needed to get internal sign off too.

This was why we selected UiPath to be our sole automation partner. I’d done research into the market and we’d already seen some success with UiPath products, so we committed to them to start with. And what we've seen is that UiPath has gone from the top-level competitor to be the market leader so for us that's been a real win.

Ross ParkesProduct Owner, Intelligent Automation

Giving employees their weekends back

Another process that's been successful for Foodstuffs has been in its supply chain space. The company took a simple activity to automate: a staff member logging into a website, clicking a few buttons, and then logging out again. But it had to be completed at five o'clock in the morning and on weekends. Foodstuffs had staff working outside normal business hours to do this activity. “Once we were able to move that task on to RPA those guys got their lives back. They didn't have to start at unreasonable hours and didn't have to work over the weekend. It's been a real success for us in terms of a work-life benefit. It's freed that person out to go and do the more cognitive work and it’s been proven that staff are happier because they’re doing more meaningful work. Particularly not working weekends, not waking up at five o'clock in the morning is great and people’s days have been freed up,” Paton explained.

Reducing delivery timeframes for reporting

Another one of the benefits of implementing RPA is that automation can work faster than humans can click. This has enabled Foodstuffs to reduce the delivery timeframe on its reporting processes. “Customers would get varying delivery invoice reports depending on how long a task could take an employee. For example, the earliest one would get it at 7:00 a.m. and then the last one would be at 1:00 p.m. We were able to compress that work and now everybody's getting reports consistently by 7:30 am on a Monday.”

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When looking at the benefits we’ve seen since working with UiPath, we talk about hours displaced rather than time saved. This is because generally speaking when we've automated a task we haven't taken a job away from someone. We’ve freed them up to do something more meaningful.

Tim PatonFinance Automation Lead at Foodstuffs North Island Limited

 

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Key benefits

  • 9,000hours freed up
  • 200stores impacted
  • 11processes that were automated and changed across the organization
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Excited about opportunities that haven’t been realized yet

But moving away from the technology, it is also about the people behind the tech. We’ve been pleased to work closely with the people from UiPath, New Zealand. They've got boots on the ground, and their willingness to help us walk through different things has been really good. Even things like that the Meetups that they run in New Zealand and their willingness to come on board to do a presentation to try and get more people understanding what RPA can do internally. That’s been fantastic for us. And I think part of the reason we've been so happy to work with UiPath is that the people on the ground have been brilliant to deal with.”

“Looking ahead, we’re targeting areas that can draw a big amount of benefit for us. We've had a couple of processes go live recently, and now it's about scaling those effectively. We know there's more in our business that we can do, and we're looking forward to seeing that benefit come to the forefront and make further meaningful differences in people's lives. We're really excited about the opportunities that we haven't realized yet.”

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